The following sermon was given by The Reverend Jill Beimdiek and is published here with her permission. I hope it inspires you as much as it has inspired me. If you feel so moved, please consider sending a generous, tax-deductible gift to the Haitian people via Episcopal Relief & Development (http://www.er-d.org/) or to the Society of Saint Margaret (http://www.ssmbos.org/). More information on donations can be found at the bottom.
Please pray with me: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be always acceptable in your sight, O God. You are our Rock. You are our Redeemer. Amen.
Our Gospel reading this morning [John 2:1-11] is a wonderful story of abundance and transformation. The account of Jesus changing water into wine at the wedding in Cana is found only in John’s Gospel; it is the first of seven “signs” in that Gospel, events that function to reveal something of the person of Jesus that in turn enables others to believe in him. In Jesus’ time, wedding celebrations were commonly spread over several days, even a week, and at this one, the wine has run out. Mary, referred to only as the mother of Jesus, sees the problem, and knowing of her son’s true identity, urges him to make it right, to spare the wedding family the embarrassment of no more wine at a good celebration. Jesus initially demurs: “Woman,” not a disrespectful address, as it may sound to us, “what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” In John’s Gospel Jesus says repeatedly “My hour has not yet come”; he knows from the beginning what will happen to him when his hour does indeed come. At this wedding, though, he does respond, instructing the servants to fill six large stone jars, used for Jewish purification rites, with water, and then he miraculously transforms that water into better wine than had been offered earlier at the wedding celebration.
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Several weeks ago, when I downloaded today’s lections and began my routine of reading and re-reading and praying the lections as preparation for writing this sermon, I wasn’t at all sure what I would do with them. This week, I was struck by the juxtaposition of a story of God’s amazing generosity and abundance and the horrific devastation in Haiti. And Thursday I read an account in the New York Times that made this juxtaposition all the more powerful. Wednesday night in Port-au-Prince, the second night after the earthquake, was described by the reporter this way:
“With no electricity, stars offered the only illumination in the city, which, with its suburbs, is home to nearly 3 million people. For some of those lying on the asphalt or in the parks, cell phones provided a brief glimpse of light.
“Then the singing began. Those gathered outside tents, on lawn chairs, sitting in the middle of empty streets, sang their hymns. One phrase in Creole could be heard repeatedly both inside and outside the hospital walls, as if those voicing the words were trying to make sense of the madness around them.
“’Beni Swa Leternel,’ they sang. ‘Blessed be the Lord.’” (Simon Romero, “Agony Sets in as Medics Focus on Survivors,” NYT on-line 01/14/10)